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A basket of preschool/home school essentials

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I am planning to put together a basket (or box, whatever) of basic home school supplies and some curriculum for my sister. She plans to home school but is a bit nervous about what to do or where to start or if she's smart enough (of course she absolutely is). We were home schooled but taking a somewhat different approach than our parents did. My sister is very creative but but didn't always enjoy academics. I think she might enjoy something with lots of hands on and crafts. There are so many options and unknowns that she is feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, her children are only 19 months and 2 months old so she has time to figure it out. :-)


I would like to put together a "home school starter kit" for her as a surprise that will hopefully get her started and encourage her as she gets started. I'm in no rush and thought I'd maybe give it to her in a year or so. That should give me time to slowly pull things together. I would like to do supplies (crayons, paper, paint, play dough, etc.), preschool/K curriculum (Montessori, BFIAR, R&S workbooks, beginning readers), books with general home school information and ideas, and maybe even some home school supplies that no home should be without (c-rods, base 10 blocks).


So, what would you fill a basket with if this was your artsy, craftsy home school nervous little sis? I'd LOVE your ideas! :-)


ETA: Please excuse the typos. It's hard to type on my Kindle!

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  • Dot markers

Kids' scissors

A tray and some sand or salt, and the little Montessori books with fuzzy numbers and letters

Little rhythm instruments (egg with beans inside, triangle, etc.)

A cute smock or apron for each child and some washable paints

A couple of little whiteboards, markers, and erasers

Scraps of fabric with different colors and textures

Math rods (we actually have both the c-rods and unit blocks and like both).

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Hey! I just got to do this for a friend, whose DH is still looking for work after being downsized by the AF… Here are things her DC esp. liked:


- books, books, books and more books to read aloud!

- scissors

- construction paper

- sticker books

- lacing cards

- Judy clock

- pattern blocks

- stringing beads or counters

- geoboards

- puzzles

- set of magnetic letters/numbers

- big unbreakable magnifying glass

- set of magnets (must be past the putting everything in the mouth stage!)

- calendar and weather chart

- Kumon workbooks (esp. the cutting and folding ones)

- Things to Do with Toddlers and Twos

- What Your Kindergartner Should Know

- 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials

- Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD



Links to helpful resources (most are free):

- Starfall

- Letter of the Week

- Homeschool Creations

- Confessions of a Homeschooler

- Homeschool Share

- 3 Dinosaurs

- Pre-Kinders

- Living Life Intentionally

- Two Teaching Mommies

- Seasons of Joy (for a fee)


Do a search of Pinterest of preschool activities, and link those, and give a box of supplies for the activities -- many use recyclables. :)

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teddy near math books and counters!

some kumon first steps motor skill books, like the cutting ones and the sticker and paste ones

leapfrog letter factory

a nice art and craft book

the mathematical reasoning 3yo and 4yo books

lauri puzzles

some construction toys


there's so much fun stuff for this age group

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Thanks for all the great ideas so far! There are so many things I hadn't thought of. What about general books on homeschooling? Different methods, ideologies, ideas?....I personally love TWTM but I think that may be too overwhelming for her. Any other books that are that useful but more....gentle?

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The Core Knowledge preschool workbooks are so fun (full of activities like stickers, sorting cutouts, sequencing cutouts etc.) The preK book is really fun to read and look at as well :)....They are meant to be used together and cover all of the preK subjects.

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What about general books on homeschooling? Different methods, ideologies, ideas?....I personally love TWTM but I think that may be too overwhelming for her. Any other books that are that useful but more....gentle?


It might be less overwhelming to start with a few articles that outline the half-dozen or so different homeschool philosophies, and let her chew on that awhile, and talk together about it.


For books, two ideas that aren't too overwhelming, yet help with both specifics AND overall big picture:

Home Learning Year By Year (Rupp)

101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (Duffy)


Also, check out this recent thread for more ideas: Did you have a gateway book for homeschooling? -- Warning: I DID find this thread overwhelming, to realize there are SO many books out there! ;)

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The stuff that makes up my home preschool program (granted I don't start any type of preschool until three, and I see your sisters children are under two):

A child's atlas
A globe
A map puzzle (we love the geopuzzles, but Melissa and Doug may be better for very littles)

A moveable alphabet set
leapfrog videos
Quality children's literature like Whinnie the poo, Beatrix potter, Langs Fairy Tales, A Childs Garden of Verses, ect

Cuisinare rods (along with a link to educationunboxed.com)

Games like Hi Ho Cherry Oh, Uno, ect

Useborn "first" encyclopedias that follow their interests (space, animals, human body, ect)
Magnifying glass
Nature guides that follow interests (birds, trees, minerals, ect)

You Are Your Childs First Teacher is a great book focused on the baby and preschool crowd. It is very gentle but I find it so relaxing and encouraging. I think it lends itself well to artsy moms because it is waldorf, montessori, play type learning. It's the only "homeschooling" book I'd personally hand a mom who's oldest is still under two.

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Again, budget depending, a laminator is one of those things that can be used in almost any educational or otherwise purpose.  It's one of those items that I honestly don't think I could homeschool without.  Is that weird? 

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You have a ton of great ideas in this thread already, so I'll just add a few thoughts, some of which might be repeats.


-My youngest started home schooling with us at age 2 when her big sis started K, so she had three years of preschool! One of her faves were the Kumon books, especially dot-to-dot.

-My girls played with math manipulatives for years (we still demonstrate soccer plays with the counting bears!). We like the weighted counting bears (3,6,9, and 12 gm bears--can be used with scales later on), pattern blocks, cuisenaire rods with the ruler that demonstrates adding them up easily, base 10 blocks.

-lap size white boards and lots of pens (may need to be a little older)

-we started collecting Classical Kids CDs in the preschool years. And Jim Weiss CDs. Great for the car.

-If you're getting BFIAR, see if you can track down all of the books for her. Our library didn't have some of them and I think I had to get some used--OOP.


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Games for Learning by Peggy Kaye is a great book for fun ideas.



Read Aloud Handbook by Trelease


I was also going to suggest the Trelease book and books by Peggy Kaye.  (She has several.)




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The curriculum didn't work for us, but I love MUS blocks. The one and two blocks would be a bit small for the mouth-y crowd, though


I just picked up a book on the "NEW" shelf at the library called "Read With Me: Best Books for Preschoolers." Haven't read it yet, but it looks like a Jim Trelease-style book specifically on preschool books. 


For library building, the HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics can't be beat for value - with full-size illustrations!, but second to that IMO is the Family Storybook Treasury. It also has full text/full illustrations, fewer books overall, but includes poetry and an audio CD.

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Some ideas:

Leap Frog Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory and/or other Leap Frog DVD's

R&S ABC series

Some quality picture books(collect them from Thrift stores) Virginia Burton, McCloskey, Eric Carle, Jan Brett, Dr. Suess Etc.

Wee Sing CD's maybe Wee Fun and Folk, and Wee Sing America. Or any other ones they have.


Crayons, Colored Pencils, Markers

Kumon workbook sets

The first set of Bob Books


Large dice(I bought foam ones from the Dollar Tree)

Some large piece floor puzzles. Melissa and Doug. Especially the map ones

A wall map

Lacing cards or beads



A nice playground ball

Usborne Playtime I Can Draw Animals, and I Can Draw People

A Charlotte Mason Companion

Dry Erase Markers and small boards.

paper, drawing and construction.

Kid Scissors

Glue Sticks


Stamp Set

A few book collections such as:

The Complete works of Beatrix Potter

The World of Pooh

A Treasury of Curious George

Mad About Madeline

The Complete Book of Flower Fairies

A Treasury of Mother Goose


A Nice Children's Picture Bible such as The Jesus Storybook Bible

Come and Look With Me books

Counting Bears

TOOB sets

A bug collection set(Back Yard Safari)

A Butterfly kit

The Usborne Complete First Book of Nature




Wow, this is longer than I thought. Maybe it will give you a few ideas. ;)


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We are crazy, crazy, crazy for the Djeco art kits Timberdoodle sells. 


And this is just me, do as you wish, but I wouldn't buy her the ordinary stuff she can find for herself.  Some people really enjoy shopping and buying those things, kwim?  Has she been to a convention?  That would be a fabulous big sister gift.  Then she can find the things that inspire her.  

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I'm loving all of these ideas! Some of these things may be purchased but not make it into her basket. ;) LOL My poor husband. My own personal wish list just gets longer and longer the more I read these boards. I go to a convention every year but I haven't suggested she go yet. She has lots of time since her oldest isn't even 2 yet. Our convention does a parents of preschoolers discount so I'll definitely be encouraging her to take advantage of that in a couple of years. I think it'd be a little overwhelming right now. I thought I'd start looking for some things for her this year at the convention though (coming up next month - I'm so excited! I love convention weekend!)


I basically think of preschool as a time to play with nothing terribly structured as far as school goes. I think a preschool "curriculum" is more something you do when mom and/or child gets bored and needs something to do. I'm y sure feels the same way. Thinking back to when mine were all preschool age and younger, we just got to the point where we needed something else to do that felt more productive than an endless round of cooking, cleaning, and diapers. So I started doing some preschool activities to fill in our days. I think my sister will need this even more than I did. She's very organized and always has to have something to do. I'm hoping to help her out with that and give her some fun, gentle things to get started with. I love the ideas of book treasuries, art kits, how-to books, and science and art stuff I hadn't thought of! This is going to be awesome!  :001_smile:

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Goof pencils (like Lyra) and art supplies, copy of a Waldorf catalogue like Paper, Scissors, Stone. Info about Oak Meadow, which might appeal to the artistic side of your sister. And give her the Jim Trelease book ASAP!


Has anyone mentioned Jim Weiss CDs, the ones for younger children?


In the meantime, perhaps you could share toy catalogues/websites with her. How dc play one

Now will influence upcoming schooling. For example, if the children get multiple electronics at a young age, they may find it difficult to transition to books or activities that do not offer constant stimulation and instant gratification.


Speaking from my own experience, I bought plastic from Toys R Us when dc were little. If there is one thing I could do over, it would be that. I would have been so grateful to anyone who introduced me to gentler, more natural toys and who explained that less is more, things like play silks and hardwood blocks have to be searched out.


I realize toys are not what you were asking about, but I think that since the approach to play can set a foundation for homeschool, you could be a big help now.

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I didn't see paint pots mentioned, but ours got a LOT of use.




One thing I learned from our brilliant preschool teacher was to have kids work on an easel that makes them reach up a bit. That exercises the shloulder muscles which in turn sets a good foundation for the forearm and hand strength needed for writing. I made a height-adjustable sliding easel using window hardware. Not sure if there's a commercial version available, but there are ways to cobble something together.

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http://www.montessoriathomebook.com/Home.html/  This ebook.


Dover art cards or How to Use Childsized Masterpieces art cards.


Peak With Books


Lots of math manipulatives


Lots of good art supplies.


I also really like this link http://www.montessoriprintshop.com/


Handwriting Without Tears wooden letter pieces.


Explode the Code Get Ready Set Go books.


Bob Books


Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading


The Private Eye and loupes


Out of Sync Child has Fun (great activities for any child)


I also really like Sing Spell Read Write preschool.


Linda Dobson's books are very gentle to get started with. 




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I really love op's idea, so I'm coming back with a second post.


-- one or more of the Peggy Kaye (Games for …) books mentioned before. Gather the household supplies, make the little game boards (nothing complicated), so your sister has something open & go.


-- cds from Wee Sing and Putomayo World Music, so car time can be used wisely.

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